Danielle has always a precocious kid, and not because I home schooled her, although I would love to take credit. I knew she was smarter than me when she was 3 years old. At 2, she just jumped in the pool and started swimming without lessons. She was reading at 3, started piano lessons at 4, and completed first grade before her 5th birthday. We moved to a small farm when she was four, so she grew up surrounded by animals with abundant opportunities to learn and explore. At 6, she could climb the tallest trees, milk the goats, and take care of feeding the animals. Her real passion was horseback riding, and by age 8, she could grab a handful of mane and swing herself up on her horse, Copper, and take off at break-neck speed.
When Danielle was 13, the three of us decided to do something really shocking; we sold everything we owned in order to take a 2 year sabbatical in the Caribbean aboard a sailboat. We love sailing, and Danielle has been sailing with us on family vacations since she was 9 months old. Well, it took more time than expected to sell the farm and buy the boat, and we didn’t leave for Panama, where our boat was docked, until the day after Danielle’s 15th birthday. And at this age, Danielle told us we were ruining her life! But our decision had been made, the farm sold, the boat purchased, and we were going.
Panama is where we met Rosemary and her son “Little David” and Nina in 2009. They were our first sailing friends, and we spent about 2 months with them before they took Nina through the Panama Canal to Costa Rica, while we went the opposite direction. Rosemary cooked wonderful meals for us on-board Nina, and there was always a lot of people invited to her get-togethers. She taught us about life on the water and helped us with provisioning, as we knew very little about our new lifestyle. We became fast friends, and that friendship has grown over the years. We visited them in Costa Rica, and they visited us in Lafayette, LA after we returned home from our sailing stint. They continued to invite us to come and crew with them whenever they moved Nina to the next exotic location; Peru, the Galapagos Islands, and all across the South Pacific.
Again, Rosemary and David invited our family to join their sail from New Zealand to Australia. Ricky and I couldn’t leave our new business for 3 weeks, but the timing fell out just right for Danielle to go. We surprised her with the airline ticket as a special birthday present, and put Danielle on a plane to New Zealand the day after she finished college finals. The crew of Nina took her out to celebrate her 19th birthday, at which she and Matthew Wootten sang and entertained the others. Two weeks later, Nina left for Australia.
The last five months have been extremely hard on us as parents, but not once have we felt like giving up the search for Nina and her precious crew. We have every confidence in Captain David and his highly experienced crew to take care of our only daughter, and we’re sure that Danielle will be returned to us. When Danielle was 14, a prophet told us that she would go all over the world, and when she spoke, young people would listen. Recently, on September 15th, we were invited to a church service to hear a man speak who believed in miracles. He had been almost cut in half when a truck fell across his stomach, and had been miraculously healed. We went up for prayer, and he told us “God wants all the glory.” Then on September 20th the satellite boat image was discovered by a faithful Tomnod volunteer. The date of the satellite image: September 15th, the day we asked God for a miracle.
We can’t speak for the other families of the Nina crew, but God’s grace and unfailing love and guidance has kept us strong and determined. We know that Danielle is in God’s hands, and that He’s providing for her and keeping her safe. He has an amazing plan for her life, and I can hardly wait to see how He will shape her future through this incredible learning experience with the crew of Nina. She was already very compassionate and giving before she boarded Nina, but she will return to us a different girl with a different understanding; now she’s been hungry and afraid, homesick and possibly depressed, wondering if she will get the opportunity to see her 20th birthday. Yes, our little girl will see the world through new eyes with a new perspective. God’s not finished with her yet……